Cups Down! It’s a Coffeeshop Raid!


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January 12, 1961, Vol. VI, No. 12

Gaslight’s Night-of-Travail

By Dan List

A goodly portion of the Sabbath was unwillingly observed last week at the Gaslight Coffee Shop. The cellar establishment at 116 MacDougal Street was placed under a Fire Department ban in the early hours of Sunday morning. Although the legal “padlock” was removed by noon, it took until 7 in the evening for Gaslight proprietor John Mitchell to pull the place together and ready it for customers.

Mitchell came out of the evening’s unpleasantness the possessor of a summons, issued by the police, for operating a cabaret without a license.

The Gaslight difficulties were set in motion shortly before 1 o’clock on Sunday morning by an anonymous telephone call to the Fire Department announcing a fire at the coffee house.

The alarm resulted in bringing out enough fire engines to clog MacDougal Street from one end to the other.

Upon arriving, the firefighters immediately dashed into the Gaslight, but found no fire. Only a large, silent crowd was there giving its attention to a guitarist. Mitchell, in the midst of the uproar and excitement that ensued, toured the premises with a Fire Department officer. they were no sooner out of sight and sound, inspecting the kitchen, than a folksinger launched into a parody about the Fire Department. Several sharp words were then passed between the employees and the firemen, attended by pushing and shoving in the now quite crowded entranceway…

At 11:30 on Sunday morning, Mitchell was notified that the “vacate” order had been vacated, and that the cafe was free to open. The uniforms departed, and Mitchell made plans to re-open in the evening. But the pleasure was not unalloyed. At 5 p.m. a police sergeant turned up and handed Mitchell a summons for not having a “no smoking” and “no spitting” sign in the kitchen.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]